Here’s an in-depth look at a vexing question: Are flip-flops damaging your career? While I’m self employed (and thus don’t face such workplace pressures), I’m always intrigued by such cultural phenomena, but to my dismay, the article revealed a distinctly sexist bias:

An online survey conducted for retailers Old Navy and Gap found flip-flops topped the list of wardrobe items that college and high school students planned to wear to work this summer.
More than 31 percent of women said flip-flops were the single “must have” item for work this summer.
But many companies disagree.
“The dress code says no beach wear and flip-flops are considered beach wear,” said a spokeswoman for BNP Paribas.

What about men? I mean, we’re not talking about stiletto heels here. Lots of men wear flip-flops (at the beach or just “wherever”), and thus it would seem that any ban on beach wear would apply just as equally to men as it would to women.
Is there something I’m not getting? Surely there isn’t a double standard for flip-flops?
Or is there?
Intrigued as I was clueless, I thought I’d visit the blogosphere’s leading expert on the subject. Sure enough, the Manolo, he did not disappoint:

The Manolo?s internet friend the Miss Meghan she is, as usual, exactly correct. Unless you are working as the waitress at the beach cafe, or are the Jimmy Buffet, you should not be wearing the flip-flops to your place of professional employment.

I’m inclined to agree, but I’m still wondering whether there’s a double standard.
Not that it matters to me personally (as I have no boss who can fire me), but I never wear flip-flops, and I don’t even own them. But if I worked for a law firm and wore flip-flops to work with a suit, I’m just wondering . . . If they fired me but didn’t fire women for wearing them, couldn’t I claim discrimination? Better yet, suppose I walked into court that way. I distinctly remember a California lawyer who was threatened with contempt by a judge for wearing tennis shoes into court. But flip-flops? That might mean an immediate contempt citation — for a male lawyer, that is. That’s because such things are seen as inherently disrespectful when worn by men.
Not, apparently, when worn by women.
And not according to the Seattle school board, when worn by children:

The board voted Tuesday to drop a proposed flip-flop ban on grounds that it would be impossible to enforce.

Impossible to enforce? (Maybe for a school that thinks “future time orientation” is racism. . .)

Two anti-flip-flop board members changed their minds after hearing appeals from parents and students. The panel had taken a preliminary vote on flip-flops two weeks ago.
“I don’t see myself how flip-flops are disrespectful,” Board President Evelyn Castellar said.

I doubt she’d feel the same way if a male school board lawyer showed up wearing them, and that’s because context still matters. It varies according to age, and according to sex, whether anyone likes it or not.
I’ve struggled with school dress codes and double standards before, and while they aren’t the same (legally or practically) as workplace dress codes, the uproar over flip-flops worn by women is a tacit admission of a similar double standard. Inherently, I think there just is a double standard, and there’s no getting rid of it. Hence the flip-flop division. On men, they’re slovenly; on women, they’re stylish. The difference lies not in the footwear, but in the difference between the sexes.
Of course, whether flip-flops are allowed and whether they’re a good career move are two different issues.
I’m wondering whether it would be more “discriminatory” to not allow them at all, or to allow them, but engage in subtle discrimination against women who wear them as opposed to women who don’t.
(Bad career moves lead to such subtle forms of discrimination.)
AFTERTHOUGHT: It occurs to me that my hypothetical example of a man wearing flip-flops with a suit might be overkill. Even in a less formal — or informal — workplace, a guy showing up in flip-flops is going to look like a slob or a jerk, while a woman wearing the same shoes won’t. (Similarly, a waitress wearing flip-flops would be seen as “casual” and maybe “cute,” while a waiter in flip-flops could very well cause patrons to lose their appetites — even call the Health Department.)
There is nothing fair about it, and I don’t want to spend time worrying about whether this is rational or logical. Please! Even if I wrote another essay, I doubt I could fully explain the intricacies of sex-based perceptions and judgments.